Trekking through impressive Andean landscapes is probably the first activity that comes to mind when travelers think about Peru. Yet, there are scores of other activities to try your hand at, no matter what level you are. You’ll be able to surf some of the world’s longest waves, cycle across remote landscapes, raft some of the continent’s most powerful rivers, spot wildlife in the depths of the Amazon or pick up some Peruvian cooking skills. Whatever you’re up for, chances are you’ll be able to do it in Peru.
Trekking in the Andes
Peru’s most popular trekking area is undoubtedly around Cusco, which attracts scores of travelers who come to trek to the ancient citadel of Machu Picchu. The mountain ranges around Cusco have snowy peaks, offering wonderful scenery of glacial lakes, pre-Inca ruins, and isolated villages.
Northwest of Arequipa, the Colca Canyon is among the deepest canyons in the world, offering dozens of excellent trekking routes, with some descending to the canyon floor. Keen trekkers must not miss the Cordillera Blanca, the highest range in the tropical world. With over 30 peaks – many well-above 19,000 feet – the area offers boundless opportunities for hikers.
Surfing the North Coast
Peru’s long stretch of Pacific Coast has waves to suit all abilities, from amateur to advanced surfers. Surfing in Peru has been a popular activity for thousands of years, with fishermen in Huanchaco to this day paddling out to sea and surfing on reed boats that look very similar to surfboards.
Northern Peru offers some of the best surf around, with plenty of waves and not too many crowds. Cabo Blanco and Máncora attract the bulk of surfers and can get exceptionally busy in high season, although there are plenty of other areas where you’ll be able to surf some of the world’s longest waves and barrels away from the crowds. Even the Peruvian capital attracts keen surfers thanks to its solid waves that are easily accessible from the districts of Barranco and Miraflores.
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Cycling the Andes & Deserts
Few destinations in the world can match Peru’s high-altitude and remote landscapes, scattered with dirt roads, making it the ideal destination for cycling. Mountain biking through Peru offers impressive mountain and desert scenery, plenty of exotic wildlife and rural villages where life has largely remained unchanged for centuries.
A major national sport, cycling is also the preferred mode of transport in many villages and cities, with bike shops found in most medium and large urban centers. Cusco and Huaraz attract the bulk of keen cyclists, who come to enjoy off-the-beaten-path bike tours that combine culture, history and lots of adventure.
Ecotourism & Wildlife spotting in the Amazon
The Peruvian Amazon is a major ecotourism hotspot, offering excellent and varied wildlife viewing. The region’s numerous ecosystems have unrivaled wildlife density, with scores of birds, monkeys, jaguars, tapirs and giant otters – to name a few. Considered to be one of the world’s most biodiverse regions on the planet, Manu Biosphere Reserve protects over 4.5 million hectares of land bursting with flora and fauna. Staying in a jungle lodge is a highlight of any trip to the country, with lodges serving as the ideal base from which to explore the rainforest, whether on foot or by canoe.
Manu National Park is a vital conservation unit for birds in the country and is undoubtedly one of the world’s top spots for bird watching. Over 1000 species of birds have been recorded here, including parrots, hummingbirds, herons and the colorful Andean cock-of-the-rock, the national symbol of Peru.
Also in the Peruvian Amazon is the Tambopata National Reserve, harboring over 600 species of birds. Keen birders must not miss a visit to the Tambopata Research Center, where hundreds of macaws daily feed off a clay lick to supplement their diet. Another major bird watching hotspot is the Colca Canyon, home to the impressive Andean Condor that has a wingspan of up to 10.5 feet. Travelers with an interest in marine life must not miss the Ballestas Islands, with a wide array of birds including Humbolt pelicans, penguins and Guanay cormorants.
Horse-riding in the Sacred Valley
Horseback riding through the Sacred Valley is a highlight of any trip to Peru. You’ll be able to explore the area’s impressive landscapes of towering peaks, accessing remote corners rarely visited by tourists. Ancient trails zigzag for miles across the wilderness, with ancient Inca ruins dotted here and there. The area around Arequipa has spectacular scenery of snow-capped volcanoes and some of the world’s deepest canyons, while the Nazca Valley allows riders to explore the dry desert land where the Nazca civilization once thrived.
Thanks to Peru’s varied landscape you’ll be able to trot along ancient trails, forge rivers, gallop across desert landscape and canter through forests while soaking in some of the continent’s most awe-inspiring vistas.
Cooking Peruvian Cuisine
Peruvian cuisine has taken the world by storm in recent years. Blending the best of locally sourced ingredients with indigenous and international influences and age-old practices, it’s among the most exciting and refreshing cuisines around. Andean food abounds in hearty ingredients, including beans, corn, maize, potatoes, avocados and quinoa. Along the coast, the staple is refreshing ceviche, raw fish marinated in citrus juice and spiced with red onion and aji pepper. Foodies will love taking part in hands-on cooking classes that provide an introduction to the diversity of ingredients on offer, taking you on an exciting culinary journey.
Whitewater Rafting the Urumbata and Other Rivers
With its gushing rocky rivers flowing down from high Andean ranges, Peru is one of South America’s top rafting and canoeing centers. There are scores of rafting routes offering access to a variety of river grades. The Río Urubamba is hugely popular, while the upper reaches of the Río Apurímac provide some of the most exciting runs in the world.
Those seeking the ultimate white-water rafting challenge should head to the Cotahuasi Canyon, accessible from the colonial city of Arequipa. Barely explored, the Río Cotahuasi has some of the country’s most exciting rafting through one of the country’s remotest wildernesses, with class 4 and 5 rapids aplenty. From Cusco, it’s also possible to raft all the way down to the Amazon Basin.